Operation Ceasefire (also known as the Boston Gun Project ) is a problem-oriented policing initiative specifically aimed at youth gun violence as a large-scale problem, and was first implemented in 1996 in Boston. The plan is based on the work of Criminologist David M. Kennedy.
Through the late 1980s and early 1990s, Boston, like many cities in the United States, experienced an epidemic of youth gun-homicide. Violence was particularly concentrated in poor inner city neighborhoods including Roxbury,Dorchester, and Mattapan. Youth homicide (ages 24 and under) in Boston increased 230% - from 22 victims in 1987 to 73 in 1990. Between 1991 and 1995, Boston averaged about 44 youth homicides a year. Operation Ceasefire entailed a problem-oriented policing approach, and focused on specific places that were crime hot spots. Focus was placed on two elements of the gun violence problem, including illicit gun trafficking and gang violence.
At the outset, the strategy was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and was co-directed by David M. Kennedy, Anthony A. Braga, and Anne M. Piehl of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The project, over the course of time, became unique, as it…
- Assembled a multi- and interagency working group which was composed largely of line-level criminal justice practitioners.
- Applied qualitative and quantitative research techniques.
- Created an assessment of the nature of and dynamics driving youth violence in Boston.
- Adapted the intervention after implementation, and continued to do so throughout the program.
- Evaluated the intervention’s impact.
A core participating agency was defined as one which regularly participated in the Boston Gun Project Working Group over the duration of the project. The participating core agencies included the Boston Police Department; Massachusetts departments of probation and parole; the Suffolk County district attorney; the office of the United States Attorney; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (juvenile corrections); Boston school police; and gang outreach and prevention streetworkers attached to the Boston Community center program. Other important partners with more intermittent participation include the Ten Points Coalition, the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Massachusetts State Police. Design on the project began in 1995. It lead to what is now known as the “Operation Ceasefire” intervention, typically overseen by the National Network for Safe Communities, out of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, but has also been implemented independently by several jurisdictions. The Boston project launched in 1996 with an innovative partnership between practitioners and researchers. These groups came together to assess the youth homicide problem and implement the intervention, and found a substantial near-term impact on the problem. Operation Ceasefire was based on ”pulling levers” deterrence strategies, which focus criminal justice enforcement on a small number of chronic offenders and gang-involved youth who were responsible for much of Boston’s homicide problem. Early impact evaluations suggested that the Ceasefire intervention was associated with significant reductions in youth homicide victimization, shots fired, calls for service, and gun assaults in Boston. Within two years of implementing Operation Ceasefire in Boston, the number of youth homicides dropped to ten, with one handgun-related youth homicide occurring in 1999 and 2000. After a change in supervising personnel within the Boston police department and city government, this first site was abandoned. Youth homicides began to climb again with 37 in 2005 and reaching a peak of 52 in 2010.
The Operation Ceasefire strategy has since been replicated in other cities, including Los Angeles and Oakland, California  and various cities in New Jersey including but not limited toNewark, Irvington,Camden and Paterson. Over sixty cities are currently associated with the National Network for Safe Communities, and are receiving expert technical assistance in successfully implementing their respective programs.
- New Haven
- Baton Rouge
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Further, several states have associated Ceasefire programs.
Connecticut – Project Longevity
Project Longevity is a Connecticut state initiative supported by the Office of the US Attorney. Under National Network advising in partnership with Yale University and the University of New Haven, Project Longevity combines community engagement, social services, and focused law enforcement to positively influence group dynamics and reduce violence. Project Longevity conducts call-ins in to deliver community and law enforcement antiviolence messages to group members along with an offer of help. New Haven, Bridgeport,and Hartford, the three Connecticut cities with the highest recent rates of violent crime, have all formed partnerships committed to using GVI in response to violence.
Findings & Results
The Pareto Principle in Ceasefire
Research on the Ceasefire method has found a profound and so far invariant connection between serious violence and highly active criminal groups. A typical city-level finding is that groups collectively representing under 0.5% of the city’s population will be connected as offenders, victims or both, with between half and three quarters of all homicide in the city. This is likely an underestimate and the lower bounds, since only incidents known to be street group connected are counted as such. This means that some substantial portion of those not known will also be group connected. In Boston, for example, which at the time had a population of roughly 556,180 people, approximately 1,500 individuals were identified as comprising 61 separate groups. This 0.3% of the population was responsible for 60% of the city’s homicides. Similarly, in Cincinnati in 1997, which had an approximate population of 33,321, between 800 and 1,000 individuals (less than 0.3% of the population) were identified as being group related, and were responsible for 75% of the city’s homicides.
Results from Ceasefire Sites
Ceasefire strategies have been deployed in more than 60 cities – from Los Angeles to Providence, from Chicago to Nashville – over almost 20 years. A recent Campbell Collaboration Systematic Review of the strategies, and others related to them, concluded that there is now “strong empirical evidence” for their crime prevention effectiveness. Studies of the initial Boston Operation Ceasefire found a 63% reduction in youth homicide. Stockton’s Operation Peacekeeper produced an overall 42% reduction I gun homicide in the city. The Chicago extension of the national Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, has shown 37% reductions in homicide, while the Lowell, MA Project Safe Neighborhoods efforts have produced 44% reductions in gun assault. A 34% reduction in homicide has been recorded in Indianapolis, IN after the launch of the Indianapolis Violence Reduction Partnership. Cincinnati, OH’s Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) has shown a 41% reduction in street group member-related homicides.
- Kennedy, David M., Anthony A. Braga, Anne M. Piehl (2001). Reducing Gun Violence: The Boston Gun Project’s Operation Ceasefire.
- Braga, Anthony A., Glen L. Pierce (2005). "Disrupting Illegal Firearms Markets in Boston: The Effects of Operation Ceasefire on the Supply of New Handguns to Criminals". Criminology & Public Policy 4 (4). 212303.
- Braga, Anthony A., David M. Hureau, Andrew V. Papachristos title=Deterring Gang Involved Gun Violence: Measuring the Impact of Boston’s Operation Ceasefire on Street Gang Behavior. Journal of Quantitative Criminology http://www.hks.harvard.edu/var/ezp_site/storage/fckeditor/file/pdfs/centers-programs/programs/criminal-justice/GangsGunsUrbanViolence/Deterring%20Gang-Involved%20Gun%20Violence.pdf
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- Kennedy, David (2012). Don't Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America. Bloomsbury USA.
- Braga, A., D.L. Weisburd. "The Effects of Pulling Levers Focused Deterrence Strategies on Crime". Campbell Systematic Reviews. doi:10.4073/csr.2012.6.
- Rushefsky, Mark E. (2002). "Criminal Justice: To Ensure Domestic Tranquility (Chapter 7)". Public Policy in the United States: At the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century. M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
- National Institute of Justice (February 2005). Research Report: Reducing Gun Violence - Operation Ceasefire in Los Angeles.
- "National Network for Safe Communities".
- Kennedy, Anthony; Braga; Piehl, Anne (1987), The(Un)Known Universe: Mapping Gangs and Gang Violence in Boston, In D. Weisburd and J.T. McEwen, Crime Mapping and Crime Prevention, New York: Criminal Justice Press, pp. 219–262
- Engel, R.S., S.G Baker, M.S. Tilyer, J. Eck & M.S. Dunham (2008). Implementation of the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV): Year 1 report. Cincinnati, OH: University of Cincinnati Policing Institute.
- Braga, Anthony; Weisburd, David (13 September 2011). "The Effects of Focused Deterrence Strategies on Crime: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Evidence". Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. published online: 1–36. doi:10.1177/0022427811419368.
- Braga, Anthony; Kennedy, David; Waring, E.J.; Piehl, Anne (2001). "Problem-Oriented Policing, Deterrence, and Youth Violence: An Evaluation of Boston’s Operation Ceasefire". Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 38 (3): 195–226.
- Braga, Anthony (2008). "Pulling Levers: Focused Deterrence Strategies and the Prevention of Gun Homicide.". Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (4): 332–343.
- Meares, Tracey; Papachristos, Andrew (2009). "Homicide and Gun Violence in Chicago: Evaluation and Summary of the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program". Project Safe neighborhoods Research Brief.
- Braga, Anthony; Pierce, G.L.; Bond, J.; Cronin, S (2008). "The Strategic Prevention of Gun Violence Among Gang-Involved Offenders". Justice Quarterly 25: 132–162.
- McGarrell, E.F.; Chermak, S; Wilson, J.M.; Corsaro, N. (2006). "Reducing Homicide through a "Lever Pulling" Strategy". Justice Quarterly 23 (2): 214–231.
- Engel, R.S.; Tillyer, M.S.; Corsaro, N. (2011). "Reducing Gang Violence Using Focused Deterrence: Evaluating the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV)". Justice Quarterly. doi:10.1080/07418825.2011.619559.